Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photograhy

This column will attempt to provide solutions to problems readers may have getting into and using digital cameras, scanning, and using digital photographic images with a computer and different kinds of software. All questions sent to me will be answered with the most appropriate information I can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in this column. Readers can send questions to me addressed to Shutterbug magazine, through the Shutterbug web site, directly via e-mail to: editorial@shutterbug.net or by US Mail to: PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.

Q. I have feet in both the conventional and digital arenas. I shoot with conventional 35mm and then transfer selected images to a Photo CD. Once there, Photoshop can perform its magic. I've tried several labs and find that all CD images need a 20 percent increase in contrast and a 10 percent decrease in brightness before I begin any other adjustments. My system is calibrated and the screen and printed output are right on. I find that much of the color information which exists in a conventional photo print is muddy, or missing in the CD scan--which requires extra time in Photoshop at some loss of realism. Will a 35mm film scanner (like the Nikon LS-2000) yield more accurate color information for a digital file? Are there any tradeoffs if I go this route? Thank you.
Mark Katzman

A.
First of all, if you have an investment in Photo CDs, I would suggest that you can resolve the problem limitations you have experienced. LaserSoft offers a software solution to accessing Photo CDs to acquire all of the potential quality in the scan made to produce the Photo CD. This software is a parallel of that used to access a fully color corrected result acquiring a digital image using a scanner. LaserSoft SilverFast Photo CD is a Photoshop plug-in which accesses the full 30-bit YCC image information in a Photo CD file providing an on-screen preview. Based on this preview you can use a full set of easy to learn tools that parallel the color correction dialogs in Photoshop to adjust the characteristics of the image previous to its translation to a 24-bit RGB image opened in Photoshop.

With over 100 Photo CDs I have found LaserSoft SilverFast Photo CD provides an easy to use, efficient, and high quality access to the image information on my discs. You may find the cost of LaserSoft SilverFast Photo CD a rather high price for software, but if you want to obtain full value from your current Photo CDs and also use the medium with full success in the future it is a good investment. I would suggest downloading a trial version of SilverFast Photo CD from the LaserSoft web site at: www.silverfast.com.

Any one of the popular top of the line desktop 35mm film scanners will provide higher resolution digital images from scans, as well as a high level of potential image quality, compared to the Photo CD. Whether you choose Minolta, Nikon, Microtek ArtixScan, or Polaroid, all provide good physical performance. The greatest differences between these scanners is in the effectiveness of the software provided with the scanner by the manufacturer. In addition, many users who demand the best image quality from their scans invest in the extra cost of LaserSoft SilverFast Ai software to drive their scanner.

Q. I am about to purchase a scanner. In the March 2000 issue you did a test on the Epson 1200U Photo. I would like to use it, among other things, to make Kodak Photo CDs from my 35mm transparencies and also to supply some photo stock houses with my work. Do you think that the quality is good enough for this purpose? Thank you.
Bert Hoferichter

A.
To answer your last question first, the quality of scans from 35mm slides using the Epson Perfection 1200U Photo is not sufficient for professional purposes. The Epson Perfection is intended as primarily a scanner for letter-size reflective scanning and secondarily as a film scanner for amateur home use, particularly if the film size is 35mm. In addition, most stock photo agencies with which I am acquainted require submission of original film. Then, if they choose to accept any images, they usually use high-end drum scanners to make the scans to their specifications.

Finally, Kodak Photo CD is a proprietary digital photofinishing service that can be produced only with commercial equipment purchased from Kodak. Individual computer users cannot produce Kodak Photo CDs. However, an individual user can scan film and then record the resulting image files on a CDR disc using a CDR drive connected to their computer. The results are similar and can serve the same basic purpose, but are not the same. In conclusion, if your primary interest is to scan 35mm slides, the best results are obtained from dedicated slide scanners like those made by Nikon, Minolta, Polaroid, and Microtek.

Q. I am considering buying a scanner for scanning prints and medium format negatives. I would like to buy a moderately priced scanner, but I am willing to spend more if it is worth the money. You e-mailed me a few months ago that some new scanners would be on the market. I see that the Epson 1600 Professional scanner costs around $1100. I also see that the Epson 1200U scanner costs around $350 with transparency adapter and it has some of the same specs. Is it worth the extra money? Is the Epson 1600 Professional one of the best for the money? Is the Epson 1200U good enough for 98 percent of the people not to see a difference? Thank you for your reply and help.
Mark Nakamura
San Luis Obispo, CA

A.
You ask a very difficult question because how "people" perceive image quality is something that is difficult to define. However, let me suggest that if a user is generally satisfied with 4x6 snapshot prints made by a minilab, and most of their scanning will be of prints rather than film, the Epson Perfection 1200 Photo scanner will produce more than adequate results.

On the other hand, a Hasselblad user who is accustomed to getting 8x10 color prints made from the film exposed with his camera, and would be scanning 120 6x6cm film frequently would be more appropriately served by having the Epson Expression 1600 Pro scanner. These two Epson scanners, along with the CanoScan FB 1200, are the first in a new generation of flat-bed scanners providing somewhat more performance for the dollar spent compared to last year's choices. UMAX and Microtek ArtixScan have new models announced or hinted at that will also compete in this new generation of flat-bed scanners.

Q. I have been having my 35mm slides and negs scanned to Kodak Photo CDs for a number of years. I read with interest your highly favorable evaluation of the CanoScan FS 2710.

Would this scanner be expected to produce scans that are poorer than, equal to, better than, or much better than run of the mill scans to the Photo CD?

Would this scanner have sufficient resolution to pick up the grain in a high-speed, grainy film e.g., Fujicolor 1600, Provia 1600, or Ektachrome EPH 1600 (especially when pushed)?
Thanks.
Bob Hesse

A.
My experience has been that the regular Master Photo CDs made by inexpensive photofinishing services are essentially little better than raw scans from a 2000dpi scanner. LaserSoft SilverFast Photo CD 4 does a pretty good job of color correcting the raw YCC data and then transferring it to Photoshop, but this is an expensive piece of software. But, for me the use of SilverFast Photo CD has provided a continued useful value to the over 100 Photo CDs I had made some years ago.

The Canon CanoScan FS 2710 will do a better job, at somewhat higher resolution than inexpensive Master Photo CDs. This depends to some extent how much skill a user like yourself develops using the scanner's software to adjust the scans!

Like yourself I have had a liking for the use of high-speed color films for the grain effects they produce. It has been my experience that with the 2700/ 2800dpi maximum optical resolution scanners like the Nikon LS-2000, CanoScan FS 2710, Minolta Dimge Speed, scanning at maximum resolution often causes a conflict between the pixel size produced and the grain. In other words, the grain size and the pixel size are not different enough to clearly distinguish the grain. Since I obtained an ArtixScan 4000t, and now with LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 5 software, the grainy high-speed film scans I've made have been much improved, and the grain is accurately and clearly defined when the film is scanned at 4000dpi.

So, the bottom line is yes, the CanoScan FS 2710 will provide some clear advantages over economy Photo CD scan services. However, to really do grainy films justice in terms of clearly recording the grain accurately, the 4000dpi ArtixScan 4000t and Polaroid SprintScan 4000 are a further advantage, but of course at twice the cost of the CanoScan.

Q. Just a quick note to compliment you on your coverage of digital imaging issues. I teach Digital Imaging and Digital Still Photography at a small southwestern college (University of New Mexico-Gallup). I really look forward to your Q&As and product reviews. Additionally, I'm really pleased to see you bought a Mac G3 so that platform gets good coverage, as that's what we use here at the university. Keep up the good work!
Tim Knowles

A.
Thanks so much for your message. It's a pleasure to know students are getting some benefit in digital photography from the magazine.

Q. I thought I knew it all but once again Mr. Gates and Adobe put one over on me. (I'm sure it's my misunderstanding but how much more satisfying to blame them.) I am scanning size 120 frames (positives) at 100 percent/1600dpi. That gives me a certain size file--a fixed total number of pixels in my scan. I save in Tiff uncompressed. Then I go to Adobe PhotoDeluxe and call up that Tiff file to work on it. I go to the size dialog box and want to increase the picture size to 8x10. In my naivet I figure that when I select these new dimensions in the appropriate spaces, and given that the total number of pixels in the scan are supposed to be fixed, then the resolution box will automatically calculate the new dpi to give me the new image size (roughly 200x160)--but no it insists on keeping the resolution at 1600 so my new file size rises to hundreds of MB. I thought that as long as re-sample (in PhotoDeluxe there is no obvious place to select or deselect "re-sample") was not selected the dialog juggles length, width, and dpi automatically to provide the new image size but always keeps the total pixel count of the original scanned file the same. So what am I not understanding?
Fred Phillips

A.
You understand quite correctly that the file size is retained when changing the size of an image, or the resolution. However, you have missed the fact that there are two ways to change image size. The other is to re-sample. When re-sampling is used, by clicking on a small check box in Adobe applications, both the dimensions and resolution can be changed, and the resulting file size will be smaller or larger than the original.

This facility is provided in most image-editing applications, but the method and design of the control dialog may vary. So, pay close attention to all the little check boxes, etc., in a re-sizing dialog. Also, if you are re-sampling, be sure to use SaveAs to save the image file renaming it, so you do not lose your original image, because if you re-size smaller, you'll lose some image data.

Q. I really enjoy your column and now understand why my inexpensive (Plustek) flat-bed scanner won't produce quality 35mm scans, since its maximum resolution is only 1200dpi.

My question probably shows why I didn't major in math! But anyway, if one scans a 6x7 transparency at 1600dpi, as you advised Mr. Bradley in a recent issue, wouldn't this result in a 9600x11,200 pixel image size--considerably more than the 3300x4200 pixels needed for a 11x14 enlargement? If not would you explain in more detail how you calculated the 1600dpi resolution?
Henry Fischer
Dripping Springs, TX

A.
Sorry, but I must confirm your assessment of your not being a math major. If the full 6x7cm 120 medium format film frame is scanned at the Expression's 1600dpi resolution, the formula would be 1600x2.2+1600x 2.7=3520x4320pixels, not the 9600x 11,200 you indicated. An 11x14 at 300dpi resolution is as you noted, 3300x4200 pixels, so the 1600dpi scan resolution setting yields a bit of room for cropping if needed, and if not, a slightly higher than 300dpi printing resolution when the image is sized to print at 11x14".

With most scanner driver software there are two ways to set up the size and resolution for scanning. One is to leave the image scanned at 100 percent (the actual size of the film frame), and then set the scan resolution, to 1600 for example. The other is to set the scan output for a particular print size and resolution, like 11x14" at 300dpi. This would give you an image magnification of 500 percent in the setup dialog.

Q. I heard that the folks who developed the Digital ICE program, packaged with some scanners, have a new product which is capable of restoring faded colors in slides. Can you tell me if such a program exists or is in development?
Steve White

A.
Yes, Applied Science Fiction has an upgraded Digital ICE as well as Digital ROC (Restoration Of Color), and it is a part of the Minolta Dimge Elite model 35mm scanner. For more details I'd suggest visiting their web site at: www.asf.com.

Some have asked if Digital ICE is available as a software addition to other scanners. The answer is no, because Digital ICE is both a hardware and software function which must be built into a scanner when it's manufactured.

Q. Is there an easy way in Photoshop to create a thumbnail of a bunch of pictures for reviewing? Or is there other software out there that does better?
Larry Olson

A.
In Photoshop 5.5 under the File menu you'll find Automate. Click on this and you'll see in the list of options Contact Sheet II. Click on this and you'll get a dialog which allows you to select a folder of image files. The dialog also supports setting the page size for the contact sheet, and for setting the numbers of thumbnails per row, as well as the number of rows of thumbnails. There is also the option of placing the file name or some other information under each thumbnail, and setting the font and its size.

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